V.C. Patel is a world-renowned engineering professor who profoundly influenced the field of fluid mechanics—and the lives of his University of Iowa students.
Born in Kenya and educated at London and Cambridge Universities, Patel arrived at the UI in 1971 and quickly established himself as one of the leading experts in hydraulics and computer simulation. He became a full professor in the College of Engineering in 1975, and his expertise in boundary-layer theory, turbulent shear flows, wind engineering, and ship hydrodynamics helped Iowa take the lead in solving crucial fluids-engineering problems.
Throughout his four decades on campus, Patel also filled a number of important administrative roles during critical junctures in the college’s history. He was the departmental officer of mechanical engineering, director of the Center for Computer Aided Design (CCAD), director of IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering, and chair of the Engineering Faculty Council.
His most significant of these positions was his directorship of IIHR, a highly regarded center for education, research, and public service focused on hydraulic engineering and fluid mechanics. During a decade of leadership, Patel implemented many forward-looking changes.
“V.C. ushered IIHR into the 21st century,” says Larry Weber, IIHR’s current director. “He also oversaw the creation of a new research station on the Mississippi River and initiated a study-abroad class, ‘International Perspectives in Water Resources Planning.’ His changes laid the groundwork for the broad-based, diverse research that now characterizes IIHR.”
In spite of his many administrative duties, Patel still found time to work closely with students, and he supervised 32 doctoral students who completed their degrees. “His former graduate students have filled the campuses of the most prestigious universities worldwide,” says Karim Abdel-Malek, UI engineering professor and director of the Center for Computer-Aided Design. “The most extraordinary and remarkable observation is that V.C. has remained in touch with almost all of his previous students.”
Patel is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, as well as a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Engineering Education, and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. He has authored or co-authored four books and more than 200 publications, and has presented at nearly 200 lectures and seminars. He was a United Nations consultant in India from 1992 to 1994, and in 1995, he was a USAID consultant to Egypt.
Such accomplishments earned Patel numerous awards and honors, both off campus and on. He became a UI Foundation Distinguished Professor in 1990 and the Edwin B. Green Chair in Hydraulics in 2000. He also received an honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Civil Engineering in Bucharest, Romania—among many international honors—and was one of three UI recipients of the 1994 Iowa Regents Faculty Excellence Awards. He retired from the UI in 2007.
A quintessential academic leader and mentor, V.C. Patel’s globally important work has guided aspiring engineers and enhanced the University of Iowa’s distinguished reputation.